Book review: Raising Happy, Healthy Children

Review by Ellie Salkeld, Events Organiser and Book Reviewer for TwinsPlus Arabia.

This book: Raising Happy, Healthy Children, by Sallie-Ann Creed (a clinical nutritionist) and Andalene Salvesen (Super Granny) is much more than a guide to time-outs (although if you’re looking for Super Granny’s secret method to installing obedience into your kids in one three-hour visit, it IS here). I think reading this before you book your private home visit is almost a must: if you violently disagree then you will save some money. And if you agree with all of it then you can begin practicing some new habits before Andalene comes over and save some time!

How did nutrition get in there?

The overall tone and approach of the book, i.e. to bring up your children to be respectful and of good character – is very much what I’d expect a ‘Granny’ to say. It’s sensible and a little bit old school. My Granny was exactly like this: just and uncompromising, kindly but iron-firm.

What surprised me was the focus on nutrition and I’ll be honest, at first I thought that some of the nutritional advice was a bit unhinged. No, I thought it was bonkers. But, I read on, and did a bit of researching, and I’ve been at least partially re-educated!

The early section on Nutrition Before Baby is Born is where I read the words that raised my eyebrows through the roof: “You need not be afraid of saturated fat – at all – eat as much as you like at any age. It is healthy, nutritious, delicious and helps to satisfy you so you won’t overeat. Every cell of the human body needs saturated fat, and there are no studies ever done which conclusively show that animal fat is in any way whatsoever linked to cardiovascular disease or raised cholesterol.”

GADZOOKS! I thought, these women are off their rockers, and promptly started to research online. And… Reader, I agree with her! Seems I’ve been back in the dark ages of sat-fat nutrition. Personally, I feel that the book’s invitation to satiate ourselves on animal fats is a bit much and I’ll bear my own Granny’s old-world advice in mind and eat ‘everything in moderation’. But overall the book contains A LOT of nutritional information: on animal fats, trans fats (old news? Apparently there are new trans-fats being developed…), seed oils (bad!), fish oils (good! but get the right ones), coconut oil,  as well as handy info on deciphering E-numbers on packets, and much, much more.

Like many a real granny’s advice, the bottom line is: home-made and unprocessed is best then you don’t have to worry about any of this! This isn’t blissful news to the modern working woman’s ear by a long way (although there are various recipe ideas that are simple and quick). But that’s the message. Granny says: no short cuts.

Permission to parent?

The other introductory section is on Permission to Parent and this is followed by four specific chapters covering development guidelines, discipline and dietary/nutritional advice for: 0-12 months; 1-2 years; 2-4 years; and 4-6 years respectively. The chapters are concise and have a lot of content often presented in list or bullet point form. I think that these sections of the book benefit from being read and re-read multiple times, perhaps as the advice and approach becomes relevant to you.

Permission to Parent looks at the parents’ job of building character, and what exactly is meant by this. Andalene outlines an approach congruent with most parenting advice – our job is to set clear and appropriate boundaries, allow our children to be sad if those boundaries are breached, empathise with that sadness but then enforce an appropriate consequence. The chapter makes clear the difference between raising a child to experience a sense of entitlement and a sense of gratitude. It goes through parenting styles and the four basic temperaments, stressing the importance of understanding the individuality of your children.

There are also a nice couple of pages on sibling rivalry: “Ultimately children need to learn to fight their own battles, but they first have to be shown how to do this constructively before they can be left to themselves. Otherwise it becomes survival of the fittest. The extrovert becomes the attacker and the introvert the victim.” And there’s a few handy alternatives to trying to find out exactly ‘what happened?!’ which the book says is usually an exercise in futility! This is a dense chapter, worth re-reading even if all of that seems like old news to those years into the parenting journey.

The bottom line (again): broadly speaking, your job is to be a parent, not a friend, and this means having to be firm (in spite of your own feelings) for the good of your children.

From diet to discipline?

The following chapters on your child’s growth at various ages are a mixture of ‘what to expect’ (handy guides to development milestones at various ages); ‘what to do’ (the parenting advice) and ‘what to feed’ given the aforementioned focus on nutrition. Each section is useful and many topics are covered although not in great detail, and there is a LOT of information in each section. You do need to read and re-read. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found the section relevant to my age kids of great interest, but I wanted to know a lot more. Whilst I may not agree with all the advice, whether on parenting or nutrition, I feel happy enough to accept much of what is presented as valuable insight from two very experienced ladies.

And so then – The Discipline! What is the Super Granny secret? It’s covered in detail, primarily in the chapter for 2-4 year olds. It’s based on expecting obedience and being prepared to establish this first at home, often by staging the opportunity to go through a time-out, repeatedly if necessary, until obedience is achieved. The general surrounding advice includes:

  • being careful to give instructions to your kids, not choices;
  • to carefully pick your battles (and how to win them); and
  • to be willing to enforce consequences and to be consistent, as many times as may be necessary!

The final verdict

It is not going to be for the faint-hearted. Actually overall I found the approach less harsh than I was expecting. It’s about expecting obedience, yes, but it’s all rooted in you behaving as you would have your kids behave. It’s NOT just about using time-outs as a quick way to punish children.

Bottom line: even the notion of obedient children is not going to appeal to everyone and the initial groundwork of establishing your authority will require effort and a punishment-based approach. Many parents may recoil – but then many parents don’t have to manage two little people scooting off in different directions the second you unload them from the car in the supermarket car-park…

One ordinary-sized book isn’t going to cover everything you need to know from ages zero to six. There is a load more information in this book though:

  • from speed-potty-training;
  • to rainy-day games;
  • to recipes for all ages; and
  • ‘incentives’…

If like me, you are left wanting to know more, then I guess the clear advantage is that you can contact Andalene Salvesen and either pay for one of her famous home visits or a Skype session, or tap into her website for info on her regular parenting talks.

It’s definitely worth a read!

Now I’m off to buy some organic virgin pressed coconut oil…